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New drug can treat Hepatitis C in weeks

Created: 12/09/2013 12:35 PM
By: Erika Edwards, NBC News

(NBC News) -- Nearly three million Americans are infected with Hepatitis C, which can trigger potentially fatal liver diseases. 

One of the main treatment options is an injectable drug called interferon. But its side effects are so severe, only half of patients can tolerate it.

Now, a new class of medication is on the horizon.

"The new medications will take us a step further in our ability to cure patients, we now easily go into the 80-90 percent cure rate," said Dr. Pierre Gholam at U.H. Medical center in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Patients take a pill once a day and are done with treatment in a matter of weeks instead of months.

Some patients will still need interferon injections, but those who can eliminate the shots have minimal side effects and the drugs can be given to patients at any stage of the disease.

"It will allow many patients to avoid the complications of liver disease down the line which include the development of cirrhosis and need for liver transplant, and liver cancer," Gholam said.

Because Hepatitis C is so prevalent among Baby Boomers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for the virus.

Doctors say that testing could identify up to a million people who didn't know they were infected.

And with these new treatment options, it appears more will be spared the devastating side effects of the virus.

The projected cost of the new drug runs into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the medication by the end of the year.

Photo: NBC News

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